Fiction — From the October 2009 issue

The Dreaming Jaw, The Salivating Ear

I do not think I shall visit my blog anymore. It is not so much the smell that discourages me—gulls have skeletonized the corpse in the entranceway, and the lapping tide has salt-rinsed the floorboards where the intruder’s blood was once caked as thick as fruit-leather—as it is a certain malodor of memory persisting there. The stink of my disappointment being that stink which the sea’s salt can never rinse.

 

I study my blog through binoculars from the distance of the boardwalk, but never approach. Gulls wheel over my blog’s entranceway, vultures at my kill, much as they do above the splintery planks of the boardwalk, scavenging the greasy paper sleeves containing, if gull should be lucky, some remaining tidbits of cakey frankfurter bun, the last dark rejected french fry like a withered witch’s finger. Let anyone imagine I gaze at the horizon. It is a kind of horizon at which I gaze, an inner-made-outer vanishing point, a place where feeling ventures out to make a meeting with language and finds itself savaged.

 

I will not forgive The Whom. He would not forgive me.

 

 

I thought I would see justiny at last, but the tiny bird has flown. The question I cannot allow myself to ask: Were they not two, but one? Was The Whom pretending to be justiny? Or was justiny pretending to be The Whom?

 

It was him I killed. He is not unnamed. He has a name, even if inadequate, bogus, contrived. The man I killed, The Whom. It was The Whom who tried to enter my blog and it was The Whom I wanted to keep out and The Whom I laid low with a single remorseless thrust with the blunt editorial object I had carried with me hidden on my person and with which, gripped knuckle-tight, I lay in wait inside the entranceway of my blog. It was The Whom I wanted to reduce to gibberish with my disemvoweller, it was him I wished to see undone and unspeeched it was him who poisoned the well and stole the goose it was him who could never would never be silent I tell you it was never other than The Whom.

 

A man tried to enter my blog. I killed him at the entrance there. In order to make you understand I would have to go back to the beginning and that is impossible. I am not trying to hide anything, I swear this.

 

I could never have protected anyone. I don’t know who or what I was trying to protect. Since the day I killed the unnamed man there has been no one else remotely near the blog, no evidence of justiny, not an extinguished sasparilla candle, not an herbal-cough-drop wrapper. justiny has gone, if he or she ever dwelled here. justiny, I now believe, was as frightened of me as he/she was of that malignant other, the man I killed. And will I go unpunished? I have come to believe so. My blog is a site on no map, is sanctioned in no precinct, patrolled by no militia. Its occupants have only ever constituted its sole authority. The three of us, if it ever was three. Or two. Now gone.

 

A man tried to enter my blog last night. I killed him in the entranceway with a blow to the head. I felt in the impact as I heaved my cudgel and met with his grunting pumpkin-thick skull that he was dead, and I discarded the brain-oiled implement in the darkness there and ran upstairs and hid in a far high corner of my blog in bereavement and horror at what I had done not so much to the man I killed, to that rotting gourd full of evil, but at what I had done to myself and to my solitary majestic kingdom here, to my elegant elaborate and irreplaceable redoubt now beshitted in revenger’s shame. But it was done. He is silent now. I will need to pass his body there in the entranceway if I am to leave, the mouth-stilled black form slumped in the dark joint of wall and floorboard with its dumb black legs blocking the threshold. I am not afraid.

 

I wait in the dark huddled like an animal now, but it is an animal I have come here to meet, an animal I am seeking to purge and correct, and to do so I have had to turn myself into an animal too. The time for tender thoughts is adjourned.

HA JAW IF YOU COULD SEE WHAT I SAW
WHEN I GLANCE IN YOUR VICINITY
YOU’D FUCK OFF TO INFINITY
YOUR EVERLOVIN’ WHOM

 

What is going on here jaw i am so scared and freaked out this isnt funny any more why is the whom doing what he is doing and is he even who he says he is???? there r times when i cant trust anyone or anything even myself justiny

 

I’ve secreted myself in one of the upper rooms. I hold in my hand an implement, an editor’s tool, the exact weight and shape of my indignation at the doings of The Whom. My blog must not be spoiled. I will defend it, I will defend it with my life. I need look no further for a cause than dear little justiny, of whom I see no sign. I suspect the poor creature has pocketed her- or himself in a cupboard somewhere, nibbling on stale crackers or fingernails with teeth chattering in fear of Whom’s depredations, to reemerge only when the foulness has been purged. The quarters of my blog must be made safe for those who’ve come for solace here.

O jaw u should of seen it when u werent around he was dominating this place just screwing with everyones minds pretending he was u and sayin if im the jaw ur my bubblegum ur my popcorn ur the gunk in my back molars and u ought to wait im gonna floss u out eccchhhh gross jaw hes such a lowbrow cant u do sumthing signed desperately yrs justiny

 

More ruined rooms, unbearable even to specify in this log—so many of them now, chambers of my soul forever sealed against the night.

 

I built too near the sea. The salt air corrodes the inlaid rosewood veneer. And at the moon’s perigee the tide licks my door. On some nights I sit in the parlor of my sad savaged blog and think it was only a dress rehearsal, a dry run. That I will build another blog elsewhere and make its seams tighter, armor it and therefore myself better for the world. But to abandon this one now would be to betray justiny. I say this to myself even as I hear the waves crashing nearer than I ever wished them to, the waves that are like a pulse of hatred beating in my forebrain.

MISS JAW I FIND YOU
ELEPHANTINE IN ALL REGARDS
WHY NOT JUST BUMBLE OFF TO THE BONEYARD
THE HONORABLE WHOM

 

We coexist, invisible to one another, an uneasy blind roundelay within the forgiving architecture of my blog. Here, I find evidence of justiny’s self-effacing encampments: squeezed-out tea bag neatly wrapped in a paper napkin, glass bearing a wilted daisy, scattering of dandruff, faint odor of lemon verbena or chamomile. There, I wander dismayed into rooms Whomed: overturned or demolished in derision, furnishings all glued upside down on the ceiling as in sophomore japery, library volumes with their pages torn or twisted from their spines, a turd curled in an ashtray. Once, I found a parlor cleared of all its treasures and bric-a-brac, which had been replaced with paper slips, fluttering on the floor like fortune-cookie fortunes, each bearing the name of one of the vanished items: wicker loveseat, brass birdcage, croquet set, and so forth. I conduct my rounds in mournful diligence, reordering what can be reordered, sealing off quadrants when I must. At certain times I persuade myself an admirable stasis is attained: my blog abides, adapts, is made worldly by its users. At other moments I feel we three stalk one another: prey and predator that have each come under my roof, my own role unknown as yet. It is then I think I hear the blog ticking like a bomb.

 

O jaw dont ever leave us again like that u scared me so bad im shaking all over the place cant u see youve got responsive abilities now especially 2 me yr number 1 fan justiny

 

I decided I ought to take a week away from my blog, to absent myself from the site of creation, therefore to allow the inhabitants dwelling there to regulate themselves. It is an egalitarian space I have made, with its own social ecologies, and it would right itself, I was certain. When I returned I found someone had set ablaze the guestbook, as well as the burnished ebony Bible stand on which the guestbook had stood. The blaze singed the plaster scrollwork ceiling, soot and ash from the pyre forming a kind of rude tombstone or epitaph to itself, like the remains of a Klansman’s torched cross or the horrendous skeleton of a lynching tree. I hadn’t the heart to repair the damage to it and instead sealed the alcove where the guestbook and Bible stand had been placed, and now though the blog has innumerable rooms and no one would miss one little nook or alcove I feel it as a missing limb, a deletion imposed on me by forces malign, a first mortal blow.

MISS JAW YOU GOT A LOTTA ADMIRERS
BUT FOR MY MONEY YOU JUMPED THE SHARK
BEFORE THERE WAS A SHARK TO JUMP
GO BLINK IN A BLIZZARD
AND MAKE LOVE TO A LIZARD
THE WHOM

 

Dear jaw be strong you cant let the haters get you down yr blog is a very fine blog with two cats in the yard now everything is easy cuz of u also try imagining a place where its always safe and warm come in you said ill give you shelter from the storm xo justiny

 

A descreator, a desecraptor, a desa-critter—why such difficlutties spelling the word?—has violated the hallowed corridors of my sanctum. I found his words slathered in dripping red bold graffitist’s capitals unscrubbable across the raw terra-cotta tile:

MISS JAW
WORMS SUCK EYEHOLES
YOU SUCK GUMBALLS
THE WHOM

I’ll content myself imagining such a soul writhing under its own torments, and not give the defamer even the honor of my rebuke. He’ll have moved on, I assure myself of this. Shambled off to pick on something his own low size. Still, I see his little haiku as if neon-imprinted on my eyelids’ interior when I shut my eyes to sleep.

 

Someday the world will build a highway with an overpass leading to a cloverleaf feeding to an off-ramp to a parking area that will be full of tourist buses full of visitors hungering in anticipation, there to join the multitudes tramping hour after hour clutching snack-bar goodies as they marvel through the corridors of my blog, then to reboard amid the waves of satisfied oglers clutching geegaws, keychains and can openers and T-shirts from the gift shop adjacent to the restrooms near the parking lot of my blog, but until that day comes I hear the steady pulse and recoil of the sea and see the moonlight through the skylight and reflected off the polished banisters and I know that if it is only justiny, whether she or he is alone or stands for secret lurking others now or in the future, I have made it and it is good.

 

A first appreciation has come. A tentative thing, a shred of sensibility, something that tiptoed in on little cat feet and graced me with praise. A he or she, I can’t tell from the byline: justiny. i wuvvv your blog, justiny said, in a note, a seashell-pink crayon scribble on a fragile curl of tissue, the equivalent of a whisper, a thing I found stuck to my boot as I made my proprietary rounds, polishing brass railings and marble doorknobs and suchlike, and which I might so easily have failed to notice. I had a moment’s impulse to whisper back: My blog loves you too, justiny, in its way. But I think my blog’s love is more cosmic or Buddhist, more impassive and impersonal, than to need always to answer. My blog is for all ears that might listen, and who knows how many might be? justiny happens to have piped up. (Barely.)

 

Though I promise myself I’ll be patient, I find myself visiting my blog ten or twelve times a day, tracing with my echoing footsteps the boundaries of its magnificence, wondering when I’ll know—or if I’ll know—when another sensibility has sensed its noble call, the siren or lighthouse of my mind beckoning to theirs, and come to the doorway of my blog, entered and roamed and learned that they are not alone out here on the fringe of the real but that others have come before them and blogged so that they might feel less lonely. But I myself am not lonely. It is enough to have my blog.

 

I Sing My Blog Electric!

I made my blog in the shape of a tesseract.

I made a blog and it is good.

A small blog, of clay and wattles made. Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee, and I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, and I will hear the ocean water lapping with low sounds around the pilings, while I stand in the foyer of my blog, within the exoskeleton of its architecture, feeling myself to be its deep heart’s core.

My blog is as big and small as my desiring.

I tried counting my blog’s rooms and found myself retracing my steps.

It has many doors and yet there is only one way to enter it.

I tried painting my blog in oils and ran out of canvas.

I shall follow mine blog wherever mine blog shall lead.

I offer this, my blog, to the world, but I do not require the world to need it or accept it, for it is my very very own blog.

 

I made my blog strong, I made it with my hands, fitted the joists and the beams and the floorboards neat, planed the crooked surfaces, sanded the knots where there were knots and varnished the sanded knots until a blind man couldn’t tell you their location. It was a fine labor of many days and it stands, my blog, by the salty beseeching sea, a stone’s throw from where the searching tidal claws at their highest point mark the sand. My blog is an outpost on forever.

 

I have had a lovely inspiration: a blog at the ocean’s edge, a blog-by-the-sea. I think I shall call it The Dreaming Jaw, The Salivating Ear!

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’s eighth novel, Chronic City, will be out this month. Two of his essays from Harper’s Magazine were included in his 2005 collection, The Disappointment Artist.

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    So. Now on to Google.

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